These days, Mitt Romney has the haunted look of a mountain climber who just heard half the strands of his lifeline snap while hanging only a few yards from the peak of Mt. Everest. He can’t turn back from his life-long quest to reach the peak, yet he knows there’s a good possibility the rope will break before he reaches his goal and he’ll go plummeting down the side. Along with the overstuffed carload of gobsmacking flip-flops on everything from women’s rights to income taxes to health care that Mitt carries with him like a mummy’s curse, his sure-thing Golden-Haired Boy 2012 GOP presidential nomination is now showing its dark roots, and it’s all the fault of Romney himself.
At the Iowa State Fair the other day, Romney attempted another of those tedious ‘Ask Mitt’ torture sessions where he is forced to extemporize to answer questions from the overly-corndogged locals. This is a dangerous zone for the Mittster, who has a hard enough time getting through his soporific stump speeches without sweating through his magic underwear. Romney no doubt figured he was on safe ground — it’s Iowa and Republican runs here like boiling grease through a deep fryer. But the rubes were having none of it — missiles of verbal pyrotechnics, along with derisive laughter, always deadly for a serious candidate, pierced the hot air as oldsters in the crowd fusilladed Romney about Social Security, Medicare, and raising taxes on corporations and his own top one-percent tax bracket to help pay for them. After taking the standard Norquist stupidity pledge never to raise taxes, which is akin to vowing never to move out of your house, even if it’s burning down around you, Mitt then exhibited the complacently haughty behavior that has appealed to his party’s Christopublican-Teabagger base by serenely patronizing his irate interrogators with “Corporations are people, my friend,” a phrase that will follow Romney like a dead skunk chained to his leg for the rest of his doomed quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
Consider that prior to this gaffe, Romney’s thin hold on the nomination was threefold: First, Wall Street reptiles with ice in their aortas and gin-embalmed country club Republicans embraced Mitt as a fellow-traveler — a man willing to make the hard decisions before lunch of how many American jobs to cut or send to foreign shores and live without guilt on the proceeds. Secondly, others in the party elite thought Romney was an agreeably vacillating vessel who could easily be packaged as a caring ‘moderate conservative’ with a chance of beating Obama in 2012. Third, he has a pile of his own money to sink in his campaign, always a relief and comfort to the political investment class.
But with his ad-lib proclamation on the personhood of corporations, which comes as close as Romney gets to a core principle, he tossed it all away. Mitt might as well have announced he’s a Communist who worships Joe Stalin. To most Americans, unschooled in the prevailing hallucinations of five members of the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruminants of global high finance, the silly supply-side economists of which there seems to be an endless supply, and the curdled cognoscenti of the Federalist Society, corporations are clearly nothing like flesh-and-blood human beings and should not enjoy the same rights. Aside from the obvious that corporations cannot vote, or be hauled into court, or put in jail, and can only be fined for their wrongdoing. (They could also be put out of business, but in corporate-beguiled Washington that happens about as often as Sarah Palin submitting to an interview outside of Fox News.) Unlike Shakespeare’s Shylock, the modern corporation never suffers from cold nor heat nor injury from wounds physical or emotional and represents a unique eternal legal construct — the front-office executives may change from death and retirement, but the corporation can go on forever. Ambrose Bierce aptly defined this swindle a century ago in “The Devil’s Dictionary”: “Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.” Adding to the legalized larceny, the multi-national corporations take advantage of tax loopholes that are not available to the average American citizen, nor even small businesses, which gives these artificial abstractions unequal and superior rights to real people.
Most Americans are only vaguely aware of any of this, but they do have the fed-up feeling, rightfully, that those at the top of the corporate pie are making out like bandits, and forcing them to work longer hours at less pay to keep their jobs, and they don’t appreciate that ugly pie smashed into their faces by a spoiled multi-millionaire who thinks he should be president. Uttering “Corporations are people” with the passive-aggressive condescension of “my friend” appended removed any chance of Romney reaching the summit as he publicly tried to flim-flam the Iowans into believing that having a mountain of reeking manure in your backyard is the same as owning a prize racehorse.
In another era, a bland and malleable aspirant such as Tim Pawlenty would have taken the top spot after Romney implodes, but this is not that era in GOP politics as the pathetic two-percenter Pawlenty bends over so far backwards trying to appeal to the Teabaggers he appears to be engaged in a bizarre perpetual circus trick and the Republican base rates his conservative sincerity barely above that of Mitt’s.
Meanwhile, Sarah Palin’s presidential ambitions will be confined to wistful private moments inside her ridiculous tour bus; Ron Paul will, as usual, fade as quasi-libertarianism and oligarchic corporatism actually don’t mix well; and Gingrich, Cain, Santorum, Huntsman and the other GOP stragglers will depart with vanity-wall photos of their brief moment on the national stage.
Predictions at this early stage are foolish, but here’s one anyway: I don’t think Romney will last beyond the South Carolina primary, if that far. If Obama was counting on running against Mr. Corporate Personhood, he might want to recalculate — the vacuous but wingnut-popular Rick Perry is about to announce, and the Ed Rollins version of Michele Bachmann is taking it seriously now, and both are ready to genuflect to the Republican party establishment to get a crack at the White House.
Any progressive or liberal Democrat who takes either the Texas Governor or the Minnesota Congresswoman lightly does so at their peril. Remember the lesson of the 1970s when Ronald Reagan was dismissed as a buffoon too far right to be electable — we are still paying for that mistake.
Copyright 2011 RS Janes.